As the 10th anniversary of the Canberra bushfires approaches, a new study shows the bush is bouncing back from the natural disaster.

On January 18, 2003 bushfires tore through Canberra claiming four lives, about 500 homes, and burning almost 70 per cent of land in the ACT.

But the firestorm created a unique opportunity to discover how the bush recovers after intense fire.

CSIRO plant ecologist Michael Doherty has been mapping the bushland of the Brindabella Ranges on the New South Wales - ACT border since the 1990s.

He had been taking photos, measurements and recordings of all the plants in the area.

But in 2003 his work literally went up in smoke.

The fire created a natural experiment and Mr Doherty set out to discover how the bush can come back from such a severe event.

He says it is a remarkable story of recovery.

"Where the plots were burnt at high intensity, there was basically just charcoal and ash," he said.

'Fantastic growth'

All of the plant species from grasses, to wattle and eucalypt have recovered, even those burnt by high intensity fires.

Some plants are re-sprouting, while others are growing back from seeds stored in the soil.

"The rapid recovery of the high intensity areas has been welcome news, because prior to the fires there wasn't really any idea of how they would recover," Mr Doherty said.

Mr Doherty says the bush is far more resilient than previously thought.

"Even though plots were burned at high intensity, there's been a fantastic amount of growth," he said.

"Snow gums which looked like they were dead have recovered by sprouting at the base.

"The shrubs, grasses, herbs and forbes have all come back."

The research is expected to provide new insights into fire management planning.


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